Artists and school reach agreement to preserve East L.A. mural

Concept for Plaza La Primera/Johnny D. Gonzalez

A group of artists and officials with a charter school have reached an agreement to preserve the tiled murals above the former First Street Store in East Los Angeles.  Plans to build a new middle and high school on the site of the now vacant store had raised concern about the fate of  “A Story of Our Struggle,” a nearly forty-year-old tile artwork composed of multiple panels spread across the facade of the nearly block-long building.  Artists and mural advocates had opposed a plan by the developer of the school to demolish the building and relocate the murals, considered among the most prominent examples of Chicano mural art in East Los Angeles,  to another location on the site.  Instead, as part of an agreement announced this week, the murals  will continue to loom over First Street as part of a free-standing structure.

While the final details have yet to be worked out, one of the original mural artists, Johnny D. González, has come up with a “rough concept sketch” (pictured above) of the free-standing wall, which he has called Plaza La Primera.

Catherine Suitor, a spokeswoman for the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, said the plan for now is to begin construction first on a 450-seat middle school at the back of the property. In the second phase,  a new, 650-seat high school would be built closer to First Street and behind the free-standing wall and mural.

“Our intention was always to preserve the murals,” said Suitor, whose  group will operate schools focused on media, art and digital technology.  “It’s a beautiful, perfect match. We could not be more pleased.”

“A Story of Our Struggle,” which  depicts a story of suffering, revolution and finally enlightenment,  is the work of  artists Johnny Gonzalez, Robert Arenivar and David Botello. Gonzalez drew up the first design in the early 1970s as the National Chicano Moratorium March against the Vietnam War was taking place.  Gonzalez presented the design to Bob Kemp, the former owner of the First Street Store at First Street and Townsend Avenue. Kemp said he loved the idea but was afraid of the doing  anything amid a time of  social unrest  and the death of journalist Rubén Salazar, who was shot and killed  in 1970 after a sheriff’s deputy fired a tear canister into an East L.A. bar.

The mural panels were installed in 1974, half a century after the First Street Store opened. The family-owned store closed at the end of 2007 and has been empty ever since.

Related Links:

  • Plans to build new school raise concerns over the fate of an East L.A. mural and First Street landmark.  The Eastsider



  1. Awesome! Glad to hear it’s been worked out and the originals will live on in their rightful place for many years to come.

  2. La raza unida , Chicano style ,Latino culture like in the gangster movies La primer lives …Great to know people care bout murals…we need more Aztec murals..

  3. Wow , some amazing news from the REAL EASTSIDE of L.A .

    • Nobody likes hipsters

      That’s right! East LA, not Silver Lake or Eagle Rock. A good story about the real Eastside. Fantastic agreement.

      • Yeah, Some real folks that cant distinguish between eastsider and east side YO!

        Hip hop hooray hooo hey hooo!!

        • Eastsiders come from the real Eastside … like duh! OMG, you totally don’t know what you’re talking about! Maybe your view from back in the Valley or Beverly Hills makes you think everything east of Fairfax is the Eastside, but like, you’re wrong. For sure!

  4. I agree that it’s good news from the real Eastside of L.A. But I am sorry that another charter is about to take over in the real East side — I think charters are out to steal public funds. Better to keep the entire building and use it as a public space for the community.

  5. They steal “public” funds because they are not a true public school in the sense that all the children in the neighborhood are not accepted into the school.

  6. The “Real” Eastside haha

  7. Its Funny because its all just an opinion and trying to protect an opinion is a waste of time. There is no “real” East Side there’s no city named the East Side. This blog is called the Eastsider (someone of the East Side) and reports on Silver Lake Echo Park etc. so why are you reading it?

    I grew up in Silver Lake although it had no cache back then, you didnt say you lived in Silver Lake to anyone outside the area because no one knew where it was.

      God , you stick out like a sore thumb .
      Its so obvious you didn’t grow up in Silver Lake.

    • It’s not all opinion… it’s your opinion, and Mark, you are incorrect. There IS a real Eastside (one word). Would you say there’s no Valley or South Central or South Bay? Those aren’t cities either but you know where they are and they are in fact, very real places.

      Silver Lake is a neighborhood just like Echo Park, Hollywood Hills, Cypress Park, East LA, etc. There is a real Eastside, it’s the area east of the Los Angeles river.

      • Silver Lake, Echo Park, South Bay etc. are all official regions designated by the city of LA with State drawn boundaries. There is no Eastside region on any city, state or federal map. Its a nickname.

        You say it’s east of the river again that’s your opinion. A lot of people a don’t include Atwater Village in that and some people swear it is. This very blog your arguing the point calls itself the eastsider yet reports the regions east of the river. The fact is simply there is only opinion about the Eastside or Westside for that matter. There is no legal definition.

        • Are you saying South Central and the Valley are nicknames too?

          Atwater Village is part of NELA. Yes, it’s east of the river but it’s north of downtown and that area is very much considered NELA, along with Glassell Park, Cypress Park, etc. While there may be some confusion about NELA, there is no confusion about places like Silver Lake and Los Feliz NOT being part of the real Eastside.

          If you grew up in Silver Lake you should definitely know that you did not grow up on the Eastside.

          • South Central was renamed South Los Angeles. The Valley is a nickname but I really couldn’t see anyone caring less if the someone referred to the San Gabriel Valley as the Valley just like no one gives a crap about where the “Westside” (another nickname) starts.

            I don’t refer to Silver Lake or anything really as the Eastside. The but if someone else refers to it as the Eastside ( like this blog) I could care less. As far as confusion goes there really is no confusion about something that’s open to interpretation to begin with.

          • It will always be South Central. The powers that be tried to change it to South L.A. because of the negative connotation, but anyone from Los Angeles knows it will always be South Central.

            And yes, people do care about the difference between the SGV and the regular Valley. Two entirely different worlds. Do you really not see the distinction? If someone says ‘the Valley’ you know they are talking about the other side of the hill, not the San Gabriel Valley.

            You may not care about someone calling Silver Lake the Eastside, but a lot of us do. Silver Lake is NOT the Eastside and it never will be. That’s saying someone that grew up in East LA had the same surroundings as someone that grew up in Silver Lake. See the difference?

          • I dont think they tired to change it I’m pretty sure its actually now South Los Angeles.

            I rarely use Eastside but I do say Westside sometimes as in “I have to drive to the Westside” Usually meaning somewhere West of La brea. I’m sure Venice is different than Culver City buts its all “over there” to me. Mainly because it means it going to be a hassle to drive over there. If your Eastside is REAL to you That’s cool If someone elses Eastside is REAL to them that’s cool to. Kicking and screaming saying one group knows the REAL meaning over such generic terms as eastside and westside is your prerogative but It’s most definitely is just an opinion… Just curious why do you read this bog anyway when it calls itself the “Eastsider” and then states sightings from Echo Park and beyond. Clearly the Eastsiders opinion on the subject is offending your reality isnt it?

          • “It’s actually now South Los Angeles.” You’re missing the point. Just because they call it by a different name doesn’t mean the area magically changed. It’s the same.

            Someone’s REAL Eastside cannot include Silver Lake and Los Feliz. You and the others that think this are wrong, plain and simple. If that’s the Eastside then what do you consider Boyle Heights and East LA? The FAR Eastside?

            I am definitely not kicking and screaming by typing that you are incorrect about your definition. I like this blog. Just because the guy who runs it and people like you have a wrong definition of what is and what isn’t the Eastside, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t read it. It’s still well put together. And plus, I enjoy spreading the knowledge of where the Eastside starts to those that read the comments.

          • FYI there is definitely more than one Eastside in LA. They use the term in Long Beach ( which is also in L.A.) and there is an actual neighborhood on the map called Eastside. They don’t call it Eastside Long Beach just Eastside and in fact theres a bit of a dispute as to what actually constitutes the Eastside over there as well.

            “There are two very different “Eastsides” in Long Beach. One is more often referred to as “East Long Beach” and is geographically the northeastern portion of the city. The common-usage “Eastside” is geographically the central portion of the city”

            Snoop wrote a song about it called “Eastside” although he doesn’t mention LB once in the song its pretty clear he’s not talking about East LA.

            I’m sure they will be sad to learn though that they don’t actually live on the real Eastside or in an actual neighborhood named Eastside.

  8. LOOK IT UP WHERE GENIUS? Wikipedia? FYI ANYONE can write ANYTHING on Wikipedia its open for all to edit and even Wikipedia states

    The short form for the region, “East L.A.,” and the “Eastside” are imprecise terms which can have different meanings depending on usage and context.

    Get it genius. It means that these the use of the term is not well defined.

    God your stupid.

    Oh and I did grow up in Silver Lake and for a little while in Echo Park. My first job was at the Auto Collision Center on Hyperion which has been there for like 30 years used to shop at Johns when it was Pioneer used to go to the tropical fish store where Ackbar used to be again over 20 years ago. I could go on and on.

    Next time try some merit in your argument GENIUS rather than just trying to discredit anyone whose opinion you dont like by calling them an outsider buddy.

  9. The murals were recently removed, and the entire historic store has been demolished. : (

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